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FPL Vs. Solar: The Fight Of The Century (Who is going to lose?)

Updated: October 27, 2019

Hello everybody! In today's media there is no shortage of conspiracy theories regarding solar panels and new clean energy. On the one hand this is a good thing as it means that solar panels are more visible to those who don't yet know about this way of obtaining their electricity. On the other hand there are a lot of articles and comments out there decrying the high cost and low effectiveness of running a property on solar energy. 

In response to the many misleading articles, criticizing the cost of solar panels in comparison to the cost of electricity from utility companies, Solar Panels Magazine is today with Cesar Salgado,  Commercial Director at ​Monoleon Solar Panels​ - a cool and emerging company in South Florida that offers, sells and installs solar panels in and around cities like Miami, Weston, Fort Lauderdale, Plantation and Boca Raton.

SPM: Cesar, make yourself comfortable as we have a whole bunch of questions for you today! To get us started, have you read any of the on-line articles challenging the efficiency of solar panels? And, how aware are you of the movement that wants to stop the massification of solar energy in Florida?

Monoleon:​ As a company we are fully aware of the movement. It is a huge challenge to all the people, organizations and companies involved in the implementation of solar energy in Florida.

Today the state of Florida acquires just 1% of its energy needs from solar panels. In contrast, California, the fifth largest economy in the world, acquires around 22% of its energy from solar. That's almost a quarter, which is a huge potential market.  

Meanwhile, what is Florida doing? Utility companies are spreading dis-information, discouraging Floridians from installing solar panels in their properties by telling them that solar energy isn’t cheap and isn’t worth it. That is a great inaccuracy as solar panels are by far the cheapest way to obtain electricity. ​Of course, according to them, solar energy is bad especially when the owner cuts out the utility company and installs it himself. How their tune would change if it were them offering the energy through its own farm of panels – then it would be wonderful, the best thing since sliced bread! 

So, we are fighting back and looking for ways to provide clean and honest  information about this to consumers. ​Monoleon Solar Panels​ is coming together with other companies and environmental organizations here in Florida. We are sure that in the future FPL and other utilities companies will face a consumer backlash for denying the importance of solar energy and concealing its true cost from the public.

SPM: Suing FPL? It sounds like a huge challenge – financially and politically? So, are you going to sue FPL, the largest utility company in Florida?

Monoleon: ​No, I have no intention of suing FPL. What I am saying is that FPL, in the short term, will face mounting opposition from many environmental and consumer organizations. The disinformation they are spreading is quite simply untrue which means that they are deceiving Floridians in an outrageous way. Yes, we are being very ambitious but similar things have happened before. 

Monoleon: ​I am not going to sue FPL, but the company will face the opposition of many environmental and consumer organizations in the short term, because apparently FTL and utility companies in Florida would be lying to Floridians in an outrageous and horrible way. It’s all ambitious and I can give you previous examples.

Remember how tobacco companies acted in the last 60 years, maintaining the lie that cigarettes were not harmful to health? The tobacco companies knew full well that they were selling products full of poison and carcinogens. And what happened? They covered up the dangers of tobacco by lobbying powerful senators and politicians. Alongside that they seduced generations of consumers by marketing their product as something cool and inoffensive. There was only one reason to do that: sales and profit – filling their pockets with millions of  dollars.

Are you aware of the cost of lives, the pain, and the toll to the public health system that tobacco companies have caused to our society? It’s so incalculable that even the government, who was in the past heavily influenced by the lobby of these companies, had to do something to stop the mass marketing and selling of cigarettes in America.

Many people believe that utility companies like FPL are guilty of committing similar crimes that cigarette companies have in the past. The utility companies have come under fire, accused of concealing information, and disparaging and denying the menace and risk of climate change. But climate change is real, and it could lead to a  serious economic disaster for the economy in Florida. Similar to Detroit, with the collapse of its economy based almost exclusively in the  automotive industry, we depend almost exclusively of tourism.

If ocean levels continue to rise,  as is going to happen, if toxic algae continues being a problem for our waters, what do you think half of the population in south Florida who depend on tourism, is going to do? It would be the total bankruptcy and recession for the South Florida economy. Hotels, restaurants, and everything that depends on tourism will go down. And that's without mentioning ,  the collapse of the millions of jobs that tourism produces. The prediction of how ocean levels will rise around Miami are terrifying. 

Meanwhile, what are utilities companies doing about this?  They are giving hesitant speeches saying that solar panels are not a feasible option. Then, on other occasions,  they say that clean energy is necessary, but that the cost for owners will not be cheaper than if the utility company is the supplier.

That is the principal obstacle that we at ​Monoleon Solar Panels​, ​along with environmental organizations and companies involved in clean energy have to deal with in giving the public real and truthful information.

SPM: That is a serious statement. Could you show some facts to support this?

Monoleon:​​ The New York Times has described​ “how experts and environmentalists blame the state’s utilities” in the slowdown of Florida to be a leader in the implementation of Solar energy. The Sunshine State is behind 19 other states, including not so sunny states like New York and Massachusetts.

I can give you the link to the article in which the NYT analyzes this situation concludes the obvious: utility companies in Florida are not interested in solar energy because it’s a clear rival to them. The article denounces negligible practices such as millions of dollar in lobbying, money to politicians and advertising. And I'll go even further: utility companies have even delayed the connection of solar systems to power for months. It sounds incredible, I agree, but it is absolutely true.

There is even a paper prepared by ​Edison Electric Institute titled ​ ​“Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business.” It is a very damning and direct article​..

Solar energy is threatening, in a disruptive way, the financial stability of utility companies. In Florida, these companies are fighting hard ​to not lose​. They have had the control for decades and ​don’t want to give it up.​ Executives from a electricity company said to a House Representative from Tampa that Florida could not have solar energy because it's too cloudy during the day. The Representative concluded that Florida doesn’t have a considerable percentage of solar energy “because of the political influence of the investor-owned utilities.”

As the mayor of St. Petersburg quite rightly said: “an owner of solar energy in Florida is not a customer, but a competitor”. Think about this as the implications are huge. We, as citizens and as a community, have to change the way we obtain clean energy by ourselves without any help from politicians or corporations. On the contrary, we have to push them for this change. This is why ​Monoleon Solar Panels​ is participating actively to change the mindset and laws about solar energy in Florida.

SPM: Do you think it’s true that these companies pay money to politicians?

Monoleon:​ I cannot conclude that as I don’t have any evidence. What I do know is that during the last 5 years the four largest owners of utilities have given $57 million in contributions for campaigns. Of that $57 million FPL has contributed a whopping $31 million. That is the amount that ​the NYT reports, quoting research from the Energy and Policy Institute​ in an article from July 2019

SPM: You often refer to this as “outrageous”. Why is the move by utility companies  wanting to block solar energy in Florida so scandalous?

Monoleon:​ See this. ​Descendants of Rockefeller sued Exxon​, the same company the richest man in this country founded 150 years ago, because in the 70s the board of the corporation knew  that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet and change the climate in a dangerous way. 

They knew it and did nothing to change it​. They  made a conscious decision to hide that information from the rest of the society. Why did they do that? Simple: because their business and revenues were at risk. ​Now, 40 years later​, the planet ​is on the brink​ of an irreversible event, and the companies who helped put it in this perilous situation were only concerned with profit, not the health and security of the rest of the planet.

The mistakes of the past are clear for all to see, only now we are also aware of the power of these global corporations and the influence they wield over politicians and laws. We must not permit the FPL and other Floridian companies the power to damage the people and the environment in South Florida purely for money and business. It’s time for the people to reclaim that power. This is only possible if we give the people the power to do it themselves.  

How? By giving them access to honest information and allowing them to make smart decisions by themselves. I believe that if the people really knew the full facts that they would take the opportunity to change the menace of global warming by installing solar panels in their houses and saving Florida and the rest of the planet from floods, hurricanes, and toxic air caused from burning fossil fuels.

SPM: So, what is the truth? Are solar panels more expensive or not?

Monoleon:​ Solar panels are cheaper! They are certainly much cheaper than paying a monthly bill to the utility company for the rest of your life. That  argument that solar panels are more expensive than paying your monthly utility bill is totally false and without merit. It  can be considered 'fake news'. We want to fight and work hard to change that mindset in Florida and show the truth about solar energy.

But don't take my word for it. Let me give you a real example with a monthly bill of only $200 in Miami, Weston or Boca raton. Answer me this: How much would you spend with an electricity bill of $200? In 5 years you will have paid $14,300.​ Yes, ​$14,300! And that's supposing that the FPL only increases annual rates by 6%.

Now, think  about this: If you consumed 1000 kWh in 2016 you would have paid  $91.56. Three years later, if you consume the same 1000 kWh in 2019, you would pay $103.70. In 3 years the increment is $12.14 or 13.2%. And they want to increase that up to $107.29 which would mean $15.73 or 17.17% in 3 years.

What will happen after 2020? Fossil fuels are non renewable resources and the demand for energy increases. So, we face less sources of energy and more demand. The result is a hike in the price of energy.

But, let's be generous and say that FPL will only increase your utility bill by 6% per year. In that case, if you pay $200 monthly for 10 years you will have paid $33,500 – which is the average cost of the installation of solar panels in your home. But, after  deducting the 30% tax deduction the Government gives with the ITC and you'll see a huge difference. In 10 years you pay $33,500 to FPL and still must continue to pay for ever, whereas with solar panels you can pay in 10 years, for the same monthly amount, yet after that you will not have to pay a penny more to anyone. 

$35,000 is the approximate cost to have solar panels installed in your house.  Compare that to paying a $200 per month utility bill. Of course, each property is different so we would have to see with Google Earth the exact roof of your home to give you an exact price. But, even with these amounts, how can one tell to someone that is intelligent that the money he or she will spend in 10 years to become owner of their solar panels will be more expensive than paying a utility company $130,000 in 25 years... and then still continue paying for the rest of their life? It's absurd!

Still, that is what FPL tells people. But people who work hard and save money are incredibly intelligent, and they obviously will not accept that. What they will do instead is switch to solar energy.

Look, don't get scared but take a calculator and do the maths yourself: In 15 years, paying $200 per month, with the 6% increment from FPL, you will pay $60.000 (yes $60,000!!!) In 20 years that will increase to $93,000, and in 25 years you will have paid  almost $140,000 to FPL​. Send your kids to Harvard folks! That is half the amount of a nice house in Florida. We don’t accept lies saying that solar energy is not financially better when it is by far the cheapest way to obtain electricity.

SPM: Is it true that the Government reimburses 30% of the cost of Solar Panels by way of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC)?

Monoleon: Yes, it is true but this will change so get in fast. The tax deduction will be available for only 4 years. And each year the amount will be reduced. Now, in 2019, the Government gives you 30% of the total cost with the ITC. So, if you want to get the 30% off the cost of your panels from Washington, do it fast because that offer will end in a while. 30% is a huge amount, almost a third of the total cost. It is a very generous offer designed to encourage citizens to make the shift to clean energy.

Now that you;re smiling because the Government gives you 30% off the cost of the installation of your panels, do you want to talk about zero emissions and saving Florida and this beautiful planet for the future of your kids?

SPM: You've talked about the risk of climate change in a vulnerable economy like South Florida that is heavily reliant upon tourism. You've also spoke about the advantage of buying solar panels and have explained how it is cheaper than paying for electricity bills from utility companies. But I have a question, one  that I'm sure many others have, and I;m interested to hear what you have to say in response. Why buy Solar Panels?

Monoleon:​ Because it is cheaper than paying your monthly electricity bill for the rest of your life! In addition, you can also help save Florida from global warming without depending on corrupt politicians who have not defended their citizens from the lies and disinformation of global corporations. The motto is: Save life on the Earth while you save $75,000 for the rest of your life in electricity bills.

SPM: It sounds cool...

Monoleon:​ Yes, and people are responding very well. Monoleon is a company that likes to do business while at the same time doing things in a better way than others did in the past. We like business, but we have a lot of interest in well-being and innovation, principally, social innovation.

But don't misunderstand. We agree that the 21st century has brought huge and revolutionary advances in our societies, but we have an immense environmental challenge to balance the loss of natural resources we use to maintain our modern lifestyle.

One of the biggest environmental problems at present is climate change. It’s true that the planet has faced many extreme changes of climate in the past, but they had an external cause – they did not arise as the result of lifestyle choices of our societies. Basically, climate change starts by the global warming caused from burning fossil fuels to obtain energy.

In order to carry on with our modern, daily lives, we rely on enormous and complex machinery that requires  tons of energy to run it. We have to move trains, run buses, fuel cars, run air conditioners, machines for agriculture, stoves, computers, TVs, light bulbs, etc etc. To do all of that we need a constant source of energy that is able to feed all these needs.

At the moment we use oil, coal, gas and the power of water in hydroelectric systems. But all these sources produce tons of contaminated CO2 emissions which increase the temperature of the planet - they are also very toxic. Today respiratory diseases account for more deaths than car accidents, violence, or drug overdoses. That is an incredible statistic.

We should have started the development and implementation of clean energy many years ago. We did, but not with enough strength and power as we needed.

SPM: Do solar panels have zero emissions?

Monoleon: Yes, solar panels have zero emissions as they use the energy from the sun and transforms it into electric energy: electricity. You have to take in mind that if you live in Florida, while you are reading this with the air conditioner on, the energy that is feeding that is coming from burning oil, coal, or gas.

I know you are fresh and cool, but imagine the millions of homes using air conditioning and the energy that requires. When yours, or any other home in Florida, has turned to solar energy, you are effectively removing the amount of toxins and CO2 in the atmosphere.

Now, imagine the same scene but with millions using air conditioners, fed by oil, diesel or coal, and imagine those same millions getting their energy from solar power. Eureka! Solar energy doesn’t produce contamination, it is zero emission and is much cheaper than the electricity the utility company sells to you with all its harmful effects on the environment. So, you tell me, is solar energy worth it? You are the interviewer, so allow me to answer for you: Yes solar energy is worth it, and  in many different ways.

In addition, fossil fuels are non-renewable resources and are going to end. Contrast that with renewable energy that is inexhaustible, like the energy that comes from the sun or wind. Is solar energy the future? No, because the future is now. Solar energy is the present and will be forever and ever.

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© 2020 Monoleon Energy. Developed by Gradvi.
© 2019 Monoleon Energy. Developed by Gradvi.
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